Press Release

Majority of UK workers say AI education should be mandatory in schools

Thu 2 Nov 2023

More than half (54%) of UK office workers do not feel their formal education adequately prepared them for working life, according to new research by ServiceNow.

With artificial intelligence (AI) growing in prominence, the majority of UK workers agree that AI (73%) and coding (73%) should be mandatory in formal education, arming young people of today with the knowledge needed in the future workplace.

In fact, digital skills as a whole are regarded as a vital skill (96%) and seen as more important to learn than sport (94%), languages (91%), and creative writing (87%).

“Tech innovation is moving at an incredibly fast pace and as the business need increases, many of today’s workers are struggling to keep up.

“We cannot ignore this pace and need to address new solutions for education to help workers embrace the new digital mindset and prepare for the future of work,” said Cathy Mauzaize, President for EMEA at ServiceNow.

Amidst the ever-changing job market and concern around the tech skills gap, the demand for upskilling is evident among workers, with some even welcoming new career paths.

More than three quarters (78%) believe that digital skills give people an edge in business.

Almost two-thirds (65%) feel additional education in digital skills would help them feel more confident about their career prospects, rising to three-quarters (76%) of those aged 18-34.

Close to three-quarters (72%) feel there should be a standardised qualification for digital skills that employers can recognise to ensure they are recruiting the right talent.

Almost a quarter (23%) of UK office workers wish they had taken a different career path, and some (15%) are considering retraining in a different field.

AI Boom Could Lead to Deeper Digital Skills Divide

More than two in five (44%) UK respondents feel that AI is the biggest opportunity for the future of the workforce, with almost half (49%) seeing its potential to boost productivity.

Despite this promise, many (41%) admit to currently lacking the technical abilities needed to work alongside and use AI systems.

In terms of the capabilities of generative AI, almost half (47%) still do not understand how this technology can support in their role today.

However, AI recognised as a significant opportunity at every level of work. The majority of office workers either currently use or plan to use generative AI for administrative tasks, including drafting emails or social media posts (69%), scheduling meetings and diary management (69%), creating Excel formulas (68%), transcribing meeting notes (66%), and reviewing documents such as reports and CVs (65%).

Despite the opportunities digital skills and AI bring, workers can find it time-consuming and overwhelming to build personal improvements.

Almost half (46%) admit to finding it hard to fit digital skills development around their work schedule.

Nearly two out of five (38%) say they do not know where to start, and more than a third (37%) admit to feeling intimidated by new technologies and often avoid learning how to work with them.

Nearly half (47%) are anxious that the pace of change means any new digital skills they learn will quickly become outdated.

“Unless we act now to both upskill current workers and train young people in using AI, the digital skills divide will continue to exponentially grow.

“Employees and employers alike know that AI offers so much potential to boost productivity and enhance working experiences and upskilling does not have to be hard or inaccessible,” added Mauzaize.

Tech Talent at Risk of Jumping Ship

Those working in the IT and computing sector are most likely to feel confident they have the skills to be successful throughout their career (81% vs. average of 65%).

In addition, almost three-quarters (71%) say their employer has given them adequate technology training, compared to less than two-thirds (58%) elsewhere.

In contrast, many are considering new industries or roles – a shift that could be a boost for other industries, but runs the risk of a talent drain in the tech sector.

One in three (35%) working in IT and computing are currently retraining in a different field.

More than a quarter (28%) wish they had taken a different career path.

And more than half (57%) admit to feeling intimidated by new technologies – compared to a third (36%) across other industries – and many (53%) state they currently lack the technical capabilities to work alongside or use AI systems.

The sample for ServiceNow’s research consisted of 5,500 office workers across the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, the UAE, Sweden and Switzerland.

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